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t i t for tat

Posted by Antoinette on February 18, 2003

In Reply to: Hmmmm posted by R. Berg on February 18, 2003

: : : : : : : : : : : Can anybody tell me what the phrase "a day's work for a day's pay" means? I need to translate this saying into german. However I am not sure whether I understood it correctly.

: : : : : : : : : : I am away from my library so I can't give you references at this point. But this phrase (to me) is about being an honest, good employee. The worker gives his/her employer a FULL day's work for a day's pay. If you are paid for eight hours, you are hard at work for eight hours. Not drinking coffee and gossiping with co-workers.

: : : : : : : : : : In modern terms, it is about not being a slacker, a goof-off or a goldbricker. You don't cheat your employer.

: : : : : : : : : This is an old slogan used in British Labour movement (and possibly the American as well)where is was about fair employment practices. In other words, a worker should be paid the going rate for the work put in regardless of his gender or race, etc. A worker paid less because he's on a job training scheme would be an example of someone who is putting in a day's work but not receiving a day's pay

: : : : : : : : : I am not sure which understanding of the expression predates the other but the idea that it's understood as being about not cheating employers is interesting.

: : : : : : : : Just found more evidence - sort of. A variation is the slogan of the American Federation of Labor, that is "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work"

: : : : : : : I believe you're right. My evidence: a brand name for plugs of tobacco chewed by miners (smoking wasn't allowed in the mines) was called "Day's Work."

: : : : : : The problem here is that phrase as posted is the reverse of the original:

: : : : : : "A fair day's wages for a fair day's work': it is as just a demand as governed men ever made of governing. It is the everlasting right of man." From "Past and Present" by Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881). Found in "Bartlett's Familiar Quotes," Seventeenth Edition.

: : : : : First I thought this too, however, in the questionnaire this is meant to be an expression of someone who primarily works for the money. A person that values the work not for itself (the fun or the challenge) but only works to get paid.

: : : : Is there a German expression for "working for a living" or "in it for the money"?

: : : This phrase may have origins in the Bible from Deuteronomy 24:15
: : : "You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the LORD and it become sin in you.

: : : This would tend to indicate that survival each day for the poor may have been dependent upon receiving wages daily for their daily labors.

: : I doubt this. I think this expression really relies upon a concept of selling one's time for wages as an exchange of equivalents on the market, a concept that is only fairly recent.

: It makes sense to me, though. Laborers might have needed their day's wages to buy food for the evening meal and the next day.

:: Thanks anyway I will stick to the "in it for the money". In the sense of the questionnaire it should mean something like "t i t for tat". Though I think it is very interesting that even for native speakers this saying is not very clear in its meaning. I should consider to maybe drop it altogether.